It was the 4th Anniversary of my father's death last week. And it was hard. It told me that there are issues left behind after an abuser dies which do not get better with time.
I experienced a spike in random nightmares and vivid dreams and disturbed sleep during the fortnight leading up to it. That has only just begun to calm down although my sleep is still massively disturbed.
I also had the memory of an incident when I was 6 resurface during that time. It was a memory I thought I had dealt with, but it came up with a different perspective and different feelings than I've had about it before.
I was 6. The family was on holiday and we were visiting Birmingham. It had been a very long, hot day. We were traipsing around the outdoor market of the old Bull Ring in Birmingham. I recall that I had had enough of wandering round. I was hot, tired and cranky and gave voice to my feelings.
My father was walking in front of me. He turned around and hit me so hard that I was sent flying through the air and smacked hard into the chest of a stall holder and upturned him and his stall.
He was understandably very angry, not at me, but at my father, as were a number of bystanders. I remember thinking "oh great, the police are going to be called and he is going to be locked up and it's all going to end."
But my mother being such a charmer in public managed to talk everyone down and convince everyone that they had not seen what they thought they had seen and nothing had happened.
A few things stuck with me about the incident.
First, it was virtually unknown for any abuse to happen in public. Image was everything so a happy, smiling family was what was presented to the outside world regardless of the truth. So for my father to hit me, and to hit me so hard in public was a very rare event - it just did not happen.
Secondly, it struck me that me, aged 6, was not shocked by his actions, I was used to being on the wrong end of severe violence. So, on one level, nothing out of the usual had happened. It was what I was used to. But for him to hit me and to hit me so hard in public was extraordinary and so I felt it must bring an end to everything. And, of course, it was all my fault. I had made it all happen by my "bad behaviour".
I now recognise my "bad behaviour" as being quite normal behaviour for a cranky 6-year old.
I remember feeling crushed when I realised the police were not going to be called and the crowd slowly melted away as if nothing had happened.
I remember thinking "no-one is going to rescue me from them, there is no escape and no rescue." I felt very alone and very afraid.
I remember feeling hurt, confused and disappointed by all those adults who witnessed something appalling but who turned a blind eye and a deaf ear. I remember I was disappointed, deeply disappointed, by those were taken in by my mother's charm, which of course only existed in public.
I remember how I couldn't believe that no-one held my father to account for his actions that day. Not even the disgruntled stallholder who was not quite so convinced by my mother's silver tongue but was mollified enough to do and say nothing about what had occurred and who just turned and set about putting his stall to rights while I stood there alone, confused, uncertain, wondering what had just happened. I couldn't get my head round it. I still can't get my head round it.
I also remember how I knew that I was in for it, a line had been crossed and I was going to pay dearly for crossing that line and creating that situation! I was shit scared, and with good cause.
I cannot tell you what happened afterwards. It is a total blank. I have no memory of what happened, which tells me the repercussions were horrific. There's always a good reason why there are memory blanks.
So along with the resurgence of that particular event came very conflicted feelings about my father. I've always had conflicted feelings about him which have got worse since he died. Now I understand a little why.
My father was someone who could be very nice to me, and he was very nice to me sometimes, especially in parts of my early childhood. But he was also someone who could quite literally turn on you. One second being very nice to you, then a split second later being the total opposite.
I often used to hide him behind the fact that many things he did were because my mother ordered him to do them. But as this incident shows, there were times he did terrible things off his own bat, not to please her. His indifference to my feelings and needs, his terrible violence and unpredictability were partially offset by his moments of kindness, which created confusion for me and conflict in my feelings and my memories.
So I still feeling conflicted by how I felt about him then and how I feel about him now. My feelings and my thoughts are conflicted. And I hate him for creating that scenario. And I guess it suited his agenda to do so.
But I am still very glad that he is dead and cannot hurt or abuse anymore.
I am also very glad that he suffered towards the end of his life, although no amount of suffering could ever compensate for the suffering he meted out to me.
I still have to deal with deeply rooted thoughts about how that makes me a bad person. But I know that it does not actually, and that is isn't really about that. It is all about and because of the brute of a human being he was.